A Capital Idea, My Dear!
by Karen J. Gordon
We're going to look at some specific
capitalization rules according to
The Chicago Manual of Style. Keep in mind that
if you write for newspapers, these rules might not apply.
Capitalize the first and last
words as well as other major words in the title and subtitle.
Lowercase the articles a, an,
Lowercase prepositions unless
they're stressed (or used as adverbs and/or conjunctions).
Lowercase the conjunctions and,
but, for, or, and nor.
Lord of the Flies
Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation
A River Runs Through It
Even if it's part of the official
title, "the" is lowercased and not italicized.
the New York Times
If "the" begins the sentence, it's
The Register-Guard is my local paper.
Titles and Offices
When titles precede a name (or are
used as part of the name), they are capitalized.
When titles follow a name or are
used in place of the name they are lowercased.
When Jimmy Carter, the thirty-ninth president of the United States
was in office...
I heard that the president was going to be...
Points of the Compass
Lowercase if used to indicate
They walked north one mile and then northwest another two miles until they
reached the bookstore.
Capitalize when used as a regional
She lives in the Northwest
He was raised in the West
Days of the Week, Month and
Capitalize names of days and
During the month of June, the doctor will only see patients on Mondays,
Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Capitalize names of seasons only
if part of a name.
The Winter Olympics
Lowercase seasons when used
Children love summer vacation.
Full titles of forces and troops
are capitalized but are lowercased when standing alone, used in plural, and
when not part of the official title.
Eighth Air Force; the air force
Fifth Army; the army
Seventh Fleet; There are several fleets
United States Navy; the navy
When used generically, lowercase.
She had a master of fine arts degree.
When used as a title (resume,
business card, etc.) capitalize.
Mary L. Jones Artistic Designs
Master of Fine Arts
Brand Names and Trademarks
Words Derived from Proper Names
Adjectives derived from proper
names are capitalized.
Lowercase those words derived from
proper names that are used generically.
Words and Letters Used as Words
Capitalize letters used for
Her son received straight As.
Capitalize a letter used as a
an L-shaped room
a T in the road
Capitalize letters used as words.
the three Rs
She typed the MS (manuscript).
Major Keys and Pitches in Music
In addition to these rules, the rule
of "It's my story and I'll do what I wanna" applies. If there's a word in your
piece that you want to capitalize and it doesn't happen to follow one of the
usage rules, go ahead and capitalize it. Just remember to be consistent and
don't overdo it, my dear!
For more information on
capitalization rules check out
The Chicago Manual of
Style, 15th Edition.
If you're writing for newspapers,
The Associated Press Stylebook is a good reference.
Copyright © 2006, Karen J. Gordon
Karen J. Gordon is a freelance writer, editor and
natural healing practictioner living in Eugene, Oregon. She writes articles and
essays on a variety of subjects including the art and craft of writing, natural
healing and personal growth. She is a member of the National Association of
Women Writers, Willamette Writers, and Editorial Freelancer's Association. Visit
her Web site at